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Summary Details

Query:   Boas and Dewey
Author:  Daniel Everett
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Not Applicable

Summary:   A couple of weeks ago, I posted a query asking if anyone had information on contacts between John Dewey and Franz Boas at Columbia University. There were two responses, both useful.

Shane Ralston, a Dewey scholar in the Philosophy Department at U of Ottawa searched the CD-ROM version of the Collected Works of John Dewey and the Correspondence of John Dewey (1919-1939). He found a reference to Boas by Dewey in one publication of Dewey's (Experience and Nature (1925)). He also found references to Boas in Dewey's correspondence and some letters between the two. Boas asked Dewey to nominate A.C. Kroeber to the National Academy for Anthropology and Psychology. In another letter Boas asked Dewey to support efforts to assist German and Austrian Science & Art following WWI. Both Boas and Dewey came to the defence of Bertrand Russell when the latter was famously dismissed from his position at a New York university. So there is evidence for contact between and knowledge of each of what the other was doing and what kind of person, at least in a general sense, the other was.

Joe Tomei pointed me to a work in American Anthropologist in 1956 by Robert H. Lowie (vol. 58: 995-1016) which has some useful remarks on Boas. There is also a website on Columbia faculty:

Boas and Dewey in many ways jointly shaped the 'zeitgeist' in which American linguistics developed in the early part of the 20th century, culminating in one of the unique American contributions to linguistics, American Descriptivism (not to be confused with Structuralism).

- Dan Everett

LL Issue: 14.3540
Date Posted: 18-Dec-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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